- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Buddhism1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Summary" above.
Write-up2 (as at 03/02/2018 21:27:22): Buddhism
- Buddhist teachings are relevant in two ways to personal identity:-
- The rejection of the importance of the Self4. There are some connections to Parfit’s5 ideas.
- The insistence on Reincarnation6.
- I have to admit to being mostly ignorant of Buddhist teachings, and unsympathetic towards those I know of (other than the woolly “peace, love and compassion” stuff).
- A couple of Websites may be useful, though clearly they don’t focus on my research interests:-
- The Buddhist eLibrary (Link)
- The Dalai Lama’s site (Link)
- However, the following brace of books might help:-
- "Yoshinori (Takeuchi), Van Bragt (Jan), Heisig (James), Swanson (Paul) & O'Leary (Joseph), Eds. - Buddhist Spirituality I - Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese", and
- "Yoshinori (Takeuchi), Heisig (James), O'Leary (Joseph) & Swanson (Paul), Eds. - Buddhist Spirituality II - Later China, Korea, Japan and the Modern World".
- So, I'm vaguely interested in Buddhism – though not from the religious angle – where my interests are strictly "Abrahamic" (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). It slightly impinges on my research topic, though in a rather negative way. The Buddhist claim is that the focus on the Self, together with attachments to anything whatever, is the cause of all the world's ills. No doubt there's something in this - but it's illicit or inordinate attachments that are the problem, not attachments as such. Attachments are what gives life meaning, and its selfishness, not selves, that is the problem. Anyway, some philosophers think it would be a "good thing" if the boundaries between one self and another were broken down so that we cared less about who was benefitted from our actions, just that our actions were beneficial - so we wouldn't care whether it was ourselves, or our families or friends, or someone unknown to us who benefitted, just that someone did. Despite the potential benefit to the world’s poor, this strikes me
- as overly idealistic and
- to ignore our proper responsibilities (ie. we have some greater responsibility - though not an exclusive one - for those close to us, because they are "our job" to look after).
- Those philosophers that take a "psychological view7" of our persistence conditions8 - that we're psychological beings whose degree of connectedness to our future selves is exclusively based on psychological factors – some of whom think that we are somehow portable from one body to another – can make some sense of reincarnation. Those that are thoroughgoing materialists (like me) can't. I’m sure the Dalai Lama is a very nice man, but his position and authority depends on him being a reincarnation of someone else9, which isn’t likely to be true.
- Despite all the "peace and love" stuff, some of the ideas that Buddhism inherited from Hinduism strike me as being rather pernicious. It all stems from Karma and reincarnation - the idea that whatever we do in this life stores up good or ill for us the next time round. Maybe this (despite being based on metaphysical falsehoods) has some tendency to encourage some people to be less wicked than they might otherwise be (just like the threat of the eternal bonfire used to do for Christians), but it also has a tendency (for those who take the doctrine seriously) to encourage the thought that people deserve what they get because of what they did in a past life – so the poor deserve their poverty and the rich their wealth; all very convenient for those in power; though this isn’t the Dalai Lama’s take on things). No doubt the thought that any living thing might once have been human, or might in some future cycle be human, might lead to "universal compassion", but it's all a complete muddle metaphysically-speaking, and we should found our ethics on truths rather than falsehoods, it seems to me.
- No doubt a Buddhist would have an answer to these concerns, and correct my many confusions.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read10, include11 the following:-
- "Bourgeois (Warren) - Contemporary Philosophers' Views on Persons: Parfit: The Oxford Buddhist", Bourgeois
- "Vardy (Peter) & Arliss (Julie) - Evil in Eastern traditions", Vardy
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Goodman (Charles) - Vaibhāṣika Metaphoricalism", Goodman
- "Laycock (Stephen) - Consciousness It/Self", Laycock
- "Sprague (Elmer) - Giving Persons a Hard Time", Sprague
- "Velleman (David) - So It Goes", Velleman
- "Wagner (Rachel) & Flannery-Dailey (Frances) - Wake Up! Worlds of Illusion in Gnosticism, Buddhism, and The Matrix Project", Wagner
- "Williams (Paul) - Indian Philosophy", Williams
- This is mostly a place-holder12.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (03/02/2018 21:27:22).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
- I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
- As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
- The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
- I don’t know whether reincarnations are of themselves, in a previous life.
- See Wikipedia (Link) for discussion of the succession from 14th to 15th Delai Lama.
- Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
- In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
- In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
- My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
- I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
- Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018